After awaiting Senate confirmation for months, Robert Seiple, former president of World Vision, finally took office in May as ambassador-at-large for religious freedom. Meanwhile, the Clinton administration has filled the open slots on the new federal Commission on Inter national Religious Freedom.

The Seiple appointment and the new commission are man dated by the International Religious Freedom Act, which made the promotion of religious freedom an official U.S. foreign policy.

At the ceremony in the State Department, Seiple defined his role as an advocate and mediator, saying he will carry in mind the face of Mary, an 18-year-old victim of the war in Lebanon. Left for dead with a cross carved on her chest, Mary survived to become a reconciler. She told Seiple, "I have freedom because I am religiously free. I hope I will someday meet the man who shot me, so I can forgive him."

Seiple also announced President Clinton's appointments to the commission: Laila Al-Marayati, past president of the Muslim Women's League; Firuz Kazemzadeh, a leader in the American Baha'i community; and Charles Z. Smith, an African American and former president of the American Baptists.

The congressional Republicans appointed former Colorado senator Bill Armstrong.

But Armstrong made a surprise announcement and resigned his position for personal reasons. After strong lobbying by Mormons on Capitol Hill, his place was taken by Michael Young, dean of George Washington University Law School and a Mormon. "Stunned" is how Richard Cizik, of the National Association of Evangelicals, felt upon hearing that evangelicals were shut out from voting membership on the com mission (Seiple is ex-officio). "We had no warning this was going to happen."

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